The press release is still a useful tool when you have news, like an acquisition, a new product, an event, etc.
But with the decline of traditional media (meaning: smaller staffs and fewer print pages) combined with the ascendency of social media, companies must look beyond announcements to communicate who they are and what they stand for as part of their marketing and branding initiatives.
This article is designed to offer some perspectives on Thought Leadership based on extensive experience that includes helping clients generate new business and led to acquisitions in excess of a quarter of a billion dollars.
What is Thought Leadership?
Blog articles (such as this one).
Social media posts (such as the ones we’ll post to cross-promote this blog).
Contributed articles to key publications and media.
Newsletters and direct emails.
Case studies and white papers (though we’re seeing more interest in shorter-than-traditional white papers).
Speeches (which can be repurposed as content for a blog post, a podcast and social media).
Surveys or reports on interesting issues. (For example, for one cybersecurity client, we offered quarterly updates on key threats. For a nonprofit, we issued an annual look an important issue, based on a consumer survey, facing its constituency; the results were widely picked up and sparked national coverage.)
Interestingly, this is true for B2B customers as it is for consumers.
Need evidence of that? On this blog, we’ve discussed the rise of corporate boycotts: “boycotts by companies in order to demonstrate distance from controversial programs and personalities” and as a way to show support for their customers.
So it’s important to clearly define “who” your company is and what it stands for, and Thought Leadership is a way to communicate that.
What are the Benefits of a Thought Leadership Campaign?
Thought Leadership is a way to engage with customers, potential customers as well as employees and potential employees and partners by providing thoughts and insights on issues that matter to them.
With an effective Thought Leadership campaign, companies can:
- Establish credibility by showcasing expertise on key topics and encourage innovation.
- Start conversations with prospective customers by addressing topics that are important to them.
- Differentiate themselves from the competition and raise awareness of the company.
- Define who they are by discussing corporate values.
- Establish a sense of community.
- Provide content that can educate and help to qualify customers. (We had one startup client who said that after a campaign we conducted, “The number of calls coming in did not increase — but the number of calls from people who understood clearly what we do increased by 90%.” This was a significant time savings for them because the calls that came in were from people who were better positioned to buy the product.)
- Improve their SEO rankings by generating more searchable content.
- Provide another way to provide context on a news announcement. (Recently a blog we wrote about an acquisition of a client was repurposed and included by several reporters looking for more detail than was communicated in the deal press release.)
- Make it easier to close sales.
Where Does Thought Leadership Fit into the Sales Cycle?
You may have noticed that the last bullet point immediate above stated “Make it easier to close sales” but not “Closes sales.”
When Should You Consider Launching a Thought Leadership Campaign?
Organizations that don’t have a lot of news but have a lot of insight and expertise to share are ideal candidates for Thought Leadership.
This is especially true for clients that have complicated stories to tell because their customers likely have complex issues to solve, and Thought Leadership via blog posts can tackle complex stories in a way that press releases, Twitter and LinkedIn can’t.
For example, we had a client CEO — very smart guy, who felt he didn’t have much to say as a Thought Leader. He ran U.S. operations for a global software developer, but the U.S. was one of its smaller divisions. First we had to convince him that a blog was the best way to tell their story because of the absence of hard news that reporters like to write about. reluctantly, he signed off on the blog. Within a few months, we started seeing interesting results. The blog articles were cited by current customers, who helped spread the word. Traffic to the website increased, and we started getting recognition for the blog from the other regions within the company. Our direct clients were invited to the company’s exclusive global marketing meeting to discuss the success of the Thought Leadership blog, and our content was frequently picked up by the folks in other regions.
We found that blog provided us with a way to tell the company’s story in a way that would not have been as effective if we had focused only on traditional media.
For a biotech client that started off focusing on media relations, we added a social media component to be able to address issues important to their customers. Through its blog, the company discusses trends, industry changes, and mostly, tips on how to work smarter, get projects completed faster and on budget. The client has seen significant growth over the past five years, recognition among its peers for pioneering (in their industry) social media, and validation in the form of being acquired by a billion-dollar global company. The client has told us over the year that awareness among prospects has been high because they see a lot of valuable content. And the acquirer company was interested in part because of the client’s successful Thought Leadership campaign.
What are The Elements of a Successful Thought Leadership Campaign?
Here are 7 important elements:
Understand your customers and develop content that addresses the problems they deal with.
- Address customers’ questions and offer real advice.
- Stay relevant and timely.
Thought Leadership is an important tool for marketers. If you have more questions about Thought Leadership campaigns, let us know what they are, and we’ll answer them in a forthcoming post. Or feel free to contact us at blog at birnbachcom.com.